Vivendi in legal move to unblock voting rights ahead of Mediaset EGM

Vivendi has asked an Italian regional administrative court (TAR) to unblock voting rights on the two thirds of its stake in Mediaset held by a trust ahead of Mediaset’s crucial shareholders’ EGM on Friday.

The French media outfit last week asked the TAR to suspend a ruling by regulator AGCOM that prevents it from exercising voting rights from the 19.19% stake held on its behalf by Simon Fiduciaria, as revealed by a report submitted by Mediaset’s board of statutory auditors and reported by Reuters.

Mediaset’s EGM tomorrow is set to vote on rule changes demanded by an Italian court to the articles of association of its planned European holding company, MediaForEurope, which will house Mediaset’s merged Italian and Spanish businesses. Vivendi has opposed the merger.

The French and Italian media outfits came close to striking a deal in December that could have led to a resolution of the conflict, with Vivendi agreeing to sell the Simon Fiduciaria stake and both companies ending outstanding lawsuits against each other. However, the pair failed to agree on the price Mediaset would pay for the stake.

Vivendi had originally been forced by AGCOM to transfer the bulk of its stake in Mediaset to Simon Fiduciaria to comply with Italy’s TUSMAR ruling that prevents companies from simultaneously holding large stakes in media and telecom companies at a time when Vivendi was said to exercise effective control of Telecom Italia as that company’s largest shareholder.

The French media group was forced to reduce the size of its direct stake to under 10% as a result of that ruling, which it has contested. Vivendi has consistently fought to force Mediaset to allow voting rights for the Simon Fiduciaria stake to be exercised, while Mediaset, which maintains that the French company’s stake in it was acquired illegitimately, has resisted.

Vivendi scored a victory in December when the EU Advocate General said that the law that forced Vivendi to freeze two-thirds of its stake in Mediaset breaches EU rules. While the opinion of Advocate General Manuel Compos Sanchez-Bordona was not legally binding, it could help Vivendi in any future EU ruling on the case.

Mediaset’s auditors’ report said that the result of the latest appeal was not known at the time of its publication.

The Milan judge considering Vivendi’s separate legal case against Mediaset’s merger of its Italian and Spanish arms in December pushed the case back to a new hearing scheduled for January 21, a move that effectively suspended the creating of MediaForEurope until the January court date.

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